Thursday, December 07, 2006

Trouble with hiking trails.

Southwest Virginia is banking on hiking trails as the fix to our economic ills. More trails mean more tourists. More tourists mean more jobs. More jobs mean more more prosperity and living "high-on-the-hog". Will it help? Read this from Jerry at From On High to get some answers.

But the headline on the front page of the 12/3/2006 edition of The Roanoke Times seems to put a crimp in these plans. The headline reads "Nature lovers are major threat to rare Va. plants". Just beneath this is says "Day hikers intent on enjoying the state's mountain scenery are unwittingly trampling flora that has survived since the Ice Age."

Who would perpetrate such a dastardly deed. Well its:

"...not vandals but everyday people and their children. Some are rock climbers and long-distance hikers. Most are day hikers who follow short trails to natural overlooks."

TOURISTS!! The same tourist that officials claim will end poverty are the ones responsible for destroying our environment.

The problem is so bad that one park official in North Carolina, Bambi Teague called the damage "our number 1 issue of concern."

What is the solution? Closing the sites. Already, 3 sites in North Carolina have been closed due to trampling. Other possibilities range from "putting up educational signs to limiting access to some spots."

On one hand we want tourist, on the other hand we don't want tourists. It makes it hard to sell the area...Come see Virginia, just don't get out of your car.


Eric Drummond Smith said...

Al, I completely agree - this is a tremendous conundrum. East Tennessee pulls in tremendous income from the tourism industry, but that same industry is responsible for a very high proportion of the region's environmental degradation, in particular in air quality. Often as I've hiked in Virginia and noticed a rare flower, I've found myself edging over logs so that it is less likely to be seen from the beaten trail. But, the conundrum is, of course, with every benefit, there is a cost. . . the key is balancing that out in as much as possible. . . . oy.

Our Goblin Market said...

I completely agree, I have been wondering about the good and bad parts of this discussion and see each equally. At one point I want tourists in the region because I am very proud of this area and it's beauty plus it does enhance areas like Damascus. On the other hand after seeing the degradation and vandalism by some un-appreciating tourists of areas such as "The Pinnacles" the idea of adding more individuals who use this resource as a one-night theme park is a little hard to take.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Smith and OGM’s comments are focusing on the right points. Balance and education of visitors are key issues.

That said I think Al’s original point is off track on two points. First, I don’t think anyone serious is really saying that tourists and tourists alone will end poverty. And second, I doubt that another in the endless series of straw man arguments over tourism by Jerry From on High has any answers to offer. Its not an either or choice between tourism and industry as Jerry Fuhrman regularly suggests and I would suggest its not an either or choice between tourists and preservation either.

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